USAC banquet report

Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind. raked in year-end prizes and awards totalling $34,141 as USAC participants split $600,995 in posted awards at Friday night's 45th USAC "Night of Champions" National Awards Dinner (presented by the Stoops Automotive...

Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind. raked in year-end prizes and awards totalling $34,141 as USAC participants split $600,995 in posted awards at Friday night's 45th USAC "Night of Champions" National Awards Dinner (presented by the Stoops Automotive Group) in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. Point fund money in 2000 totaled $351,050, helping push the total prizes paid to USAC participants since 1956 over the $200 Million mark.

Bob Jenkins served as Master of Ceremonies for the awards presentations, conducted in The Grand Ballroom of the Westin Hotel.

Hines, who earned his first USAC driving championship in 2000 in the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series, collected checks from the series point funds, the Indy Racing League's "Road to Indy" incentive program and the Turbines, Inc. Checkered Flag Qualifying Program. Hines was also presented USAC's second "Super License" by USAC President John Capels for scoring the most feature event points in USAC National competition during 2000. The "Super License" is good for competition in numerous USAC series in 2001, including all three National series.

Likewise, Coors Light Silver Bullet car entrant champion Terry Riggs of Indianapolis, garnered a point fund check for $16,875 for his Indiana Underground Construction team.

Driving champions Tony Elliott (Kokomo, Ind.), Kasey Kahne (Enumclaw, Wash.), Todd Ellison (West Jordan, Utah), Wally Pankratz (Orange, Calif.), J.J. Ercse (Lakewood, Calif.), Daryl Campbell (Carmel, Ind.), Michael Lang (Indianapolis, Ind.), Aaron Justus (Crestline, Calif.), Timothy Barber (San Francisco, Calif.) and Frank Dancs (Hillsborough, Calif.) were also feted, as well as car entrant champions, plus second and third-place finishers in each series. Elliott won the Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car title, while Kahne was the MCI WorldCom National Midget Car titlist, Ellison was the Western Sprint Car champ, Pankratz won the MCI WorldCom Western Midget Car championship, Ercse was the MCI WorldCom TQ Midget Car king, Campbell won the Indianapolis Speedrome Midget crown, Lang was the Dirt-Track Regional Midget champ, Justus won the U.S. Formula 2000 National and Oval Crown titles and Barber and Dancs won Russell Racing Series championships, Barber the Triple Crown Pro champ and Dancs the Russell Racing Series titlist.

USAC driving champions also received congratulatory letters from United States Senator Richard G. Lugar and Coors Light Silver Bullet Series champion Tracy Hines also received a key to the city of Indianapolis from the office of Mayor Bart Peterson.

Car Entrant champions included Indiana Underground Construction in the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series, plus Jeff Walker/Denny Lamers Racing of Noblesville, Ind. (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Cars), Steve Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif. (MCI WorldCom National Midget Cars), Bob Consani of Santa Rosa, Calif. (Western Sprint Cars), Wally Pankratz of Orange, Calif., (MCI WorldCom Western Midget Cars), Guy Barber of Camarillo, Calif. (MC WorldCom TQ Midget Cars) and Cape Motorsports of Pompano Beach, Calif. (U.S. F2000).

Following a special video presentation of USAC's career advancement opportunities, special appreciation and recognition awards were presented to 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion entrant Ron Hemelgarn, longtime IRNLS car entrant Pennzoil Panther Racing and Indy Racing League Special Events Coordinator Johnny Rutherford. Hemelgarn's award recognized his efforts to promote USAC's 2000 sprint car race at the Toldeo, Ohio Speedway and resultant IRL driver test for winner Dave Darland, while Rutherford accepted the prestigious Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence from Roger's son, Roger, Jr.

Jim Mills of Turbine, Inc. in Terre Haute, Ind. also received special recognition from USAC for his many endeavors involving USAC participants in various USAC racing series.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and CEO and IRL founder Tony George presented USAC's 2000 Race Organizer of the Year Award to the management team of Jeff Dakin and Angela Eaton of Indianapolis Raceway Park as well as $30,000 in year-end "Road to Indy" bonuses to top USAC participants. Joanna Edwards, Manager of Driver Development for the Indy Racing League, distributed the year-end prizes at the dinner.

USAC Board of Directors Secretary Henry Ryder accepted the prestigious Eddie Edenburn Award from Mr. Caples, while Bob Pool of Rancho Cordova, Calif. was presented the Ross Hadley Award for contributions to the sport by new USAC Winners Circle President George Buskirk.

USAC Vice President/Competition Director Mike Devin presented Keith Kunx with the Weld Racing Mechanical Achievement Award in recognition of his remarkable year, orchestrating Jay Drake's drive to tie the all-time single-season victory mark of 19 established by A.J. Foyt in 1961 and Sleepy Tripp in 1988.

John Vance Racing Team, Inc. (Coors Light Silver Bullet), BWB Racing (Sprint Car), Steve Lewis and RFMS Racing (MCI WorldCom National Midget Car) earned Hoosier Racing Tire "Extra Mile Awards" for their multi-car support of USAC pavement events during the 1999 season.

Series "Rookies of the Year" included Kasey Kahne (Silver Bullet), Bud Kaeding of Campbell, Calif. (Sprint Car) and Aaron Fike of Galesburg, Ill. (National Midget). Kahne accepted his award from Oliver Trucking, while Kaeding received his award from True Value and Fike won the Bob Stroud Memorial Award from the USAC Motoring Division.

Series "Most Improved Driver" honors went to John Heydenreich (Silver Bullet), Brandon Petty (Sprint Car) and Michael Lewis (National Midget). Pennzoil presented the Heydenreich and Petty awards and Lewis' award was presented by Josten's, Inc.

The annual Jim Blunk Award for contributions to Midget Car racing was presented to the Belleville High Banks Race Committee, whose annual "Belleville Midget Nationals" in Kansas has become one of America's most revered short-track classics.

The Diana Fell Gilmore "Woman Behind the Scenes" Award went to longtime USAC staffer and current Director of Administration Brenda Stafford, while the "Jimmy Caruthers Award" for spirit and determination from the Crean & Vogler Families was presented to Derek Davidson by Lonnie Caruthers, cousin of the late USAC driving champion.

Elaborate video presentations, produced by Lingner Group of Indianapolis, Ind., enhanced the evening's program.


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About this article
Series USAC
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Bud Kaeding , Tony Elliott , Frank Dancs , Aaron Fike , Aaron Justus , Jeff Walker , Jay Drake , John Heydenreich , Wally Pankratz , Brandon Petty , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing